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3 Ways to Crank Up Creativity in the Classroom (even if you already know about design thinking)
I used to think teaching design thinking was just about tools, but now I think design thinking is also about cultivating an intentional…
I used to think teaching design thinking was just about tools, but now I think design thinking is also about cultivating an intentional community.
That’s what I learned after spending 30 hours with District C while solving a problem for a real business and working with a diverse team of educators.
I’ve taught design thinking in the classroom for several years, and I know how to create workshops and activities to foster student creativity. But this two-week workshop pushed me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to think about creativity in more relational ways … not just as something to be addressed through reason and formulas.
Design thinking isn’t just about tools.
If you don’t know, design thinking is a process of systematically developing and evaluating ideas to solve problems and create new opportunities using specific workshop activities that foster new ways of seeing a problem. Instead of jumping to solutions right away, design thinking workshops ask participants to explore different perspectives with each other through specific activities, like interviews, brainstorming, and prototyping.
Though a big part of software and technology, organizations in many fields are using these techniques, including education.
For the classroom, I’ve found that it’s sometimes hard to focus on design thinking because we only have a limited amount of time together. I’ve been able to develop design thinking activities in this environment, but I am learning how to make these activities more inclusive and authentic.
When you build a building or piece of software, you need more than tools … you need a group of people committed to working together.
You need a culture. Most workplaces already have some community. There is more time, space, and motivation to organize around design thinking … all precious commodities in the classroom. We have to find creative ways to build these communities and give students space to fail and learn along the way.
Here are the three most important adaptations I’ll be making after spending time with District C. Teaching tools is the simple part. Helping students drive their own creativity is a whole different ballgame.
Make time for coaching.
First, I realized I want to spend more time coaching. District C coaches observed our work together and took notes. Every session ended with how we did awesome, but also how we might improve. Intentional community means explicitly pointing out good things and giving nudges.
In design thinking, we teach students how to make great ideas come alive. Students learn about the power of creativity, how to use the right tools, and how to design solutions to problems. While they learn all these things, we need to make sure they understand why they should care. We want them to realize the importance of taking responsibility for their learning.
Making these actions visible is key.
Be more explicit about tools.
I have no problem giving students tools, but I need to give them more opportunities to choose their own tools while working together. Though coaches introduced collaboration tools one at a time, as they were useful, they also provided a great visual menu of tools for us to choose while doing our group work.
Students need to learn and understand each other if we want to make our teams more creative. Design thinking requires lots of reflection and is a constant learning process. Coaching our students regularly and taking time to focus on community will allow them to improve.
We should teach them how to identify what works, how to test, and how to evaluate using tools in their own way.
Have students create an agenda together.
Having the team talk through how they are going to organize their time can be painful, but it pays off with more focused and intentional time for the rest of the meeting. This may not be possible for every class, but for a week of classes … absolutely.
Design thinking does not happen automatically. Students need to be given the opportunity to make connections with each other and the unique resources they bring to the table. When we teach design thinking, we must take the time to cultivate these mindsets. Having them create their own agenda is a great way to do this.
In conclusion, the most important thing you can do to create a culture of innovation is to create a community of people who will share their ideas, learn from each other, and build on each other’s work. It’s a lot easier to innovate when you have an open community to help you get started.
No one is truly innovative by themselves. So if you want to crank up innovation and creativity, then you have to crank up community.
Or you can buy me a coffee here instead.